Pipo Derani said he and Felipe Nasr have “nothing to lose” in the final two races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season after a late-race clash between Ricky Taylor at Motul Petit Le Mans that has put Action Express Racing on the back foot in the DPi title race.
Derani has dropped to third in the championship, 12 points behind leaders Renger van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe, following contact between the Brazilian and the No. 7 Team Penske Acura ARX-05 of championship rival Taylor while battling for the lead.
It resulted in a fifth place finish for the Whelen Engineering-sponsored Cadillac DPi-V.R, while Taylor and season-long co-driver Helio Castroneves went on to finish second in the race.
Derani, who has not spoken to Taylor since a heated post-race discussion in victory lane at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, told Sportscar365 that “it is what it is and we move on” although admitting his championship chances are now in question.
“It’s definitely harder now with the outcome of the last race,” he said. “If there’s one thing you can be sure of it’s that we’re never going to take even 1 percent off the throttle pedal.
“If we are first, second or last in the championship, that’s how we go racing and I think that’s what the fans and everyone can expect from the [No.] 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac.
“You go in and you’ve got nothing to lose anymore. You go in flat out, you don’t think about the championship, especially when you’re 12 points behind, now as we are.
“We’re going to try to do the best we can to win the next two races.
“Of course if there is a preference, it is always to be leading the championship; that’s no question.
“We will have to see what the outcome is after Sebring but I definitely would have preferred leading this championship into the last two races.”
Derani said some of the frustration from Road Atlanta also stemmed from what the Brazilian indicated was refueling advantage for the Acura DPi, which put Action Express in a “copy and paste” situation throughout the race.
“If you look at the last few races… we have been really aggressive for one reason and one reason only,” said Derani. “Unfortunately we have a slower pit stop than our competitors.
“If you look at Mid-Ohio we came in with the lead and we lost on the pits. The last two pit stops of [Petit Le Mans] we came with the lead and lost it in the pits.
“We have to be a little bit aggressive if we want to try and win races. That’s how it is.
“Fortunately we have been quite aggressive and it’s worked out. I just can’t say from a few other guys out there.
“We’re definitely going to go — as we’ve always done — and give 110 percent to win every single race as we’ve been doing and hope for the best in the end of the year that we can overcome those 12 points.
“It’s going to be difficult but we’ll go all in and see what we can come up with.”
Action Express Was “True Winners” of Petit Le Mans
Derani feels he and co-drivers Felipe Nasr and Filipe Albuquerque were the ‘real winners’ of the ten-hour enduro at Road Atlanta after putting in what he believes was the maximum effort.
“I have to say we did it in a fantastic way because we feel, up until today, that we’re the true winners of that race even if we didn’t cross the finish line first,” he said.
“We executed the race perfectly. Every time we lost the lead because of things that were out of our control, we went back there and we brought the car back in the lead.
“I think we have to be proud what we achieved in the last race. It’s very difficult, especially in a ten-hour race, to do such a perfect race.
“We didn’t have a car as fast as the Acura, down the straight and especially in the last 20 minutes of the race where they have that little extra that they can switch on and go for it.
“You find that little bit extra in you, the team, in every little thing that you do to try and be at the top.”